By Matt Cutugno
Indio, CA, USA
We’ve all noticed how some individuals and institutions seem to get a free pass through life’s controversies. Their actions and attitudes, found objectionable in others, are deemed acceptable for them. It’s an interesting, if bewildering, dynamic.
Ronald Reagan was called the Teflon President―nothing of lasting criticism stuck to him during his tenure, not the immense Savings and Loan Scandal, nor the Iran Contra Affair. He remained a beloved figure, a well-spoken ex-actor; a good-hearted, grandfatherly type.
Similarly, Ted Kennedy and Michael Jackson were forgiven (by many) for their alleged sins. And while their transgressions were of commission, Joe Paterno, conversely, was vilified (by many) for sins of omission. He was blamed not for what he did, but for what he failed to do; and this, after a long career demonstrating exemplary character. Clearly, no free pass for him.
These thoughts came to mind recently as I read about the under-publicized Occupy Apple movement. It was reported that some 250,000 signatures had been gathered protesting Apple Computer’s treatment of workers in China, where those who assemble Apple products are paid around a dollar an hour.
As one worker (who refused to give her name) stated: "They use women as men and they use men as machines, I almost feel like an animal."
It strikes me as paradoxical that the Occupy Wall Street movement, where bankers were portrayed as selfish, greedy ghouls, gained such traction. Perhaps if those ghouls supply folks with their favorite gadgets (iPhones, iPads, and iPods), then they are issued a free pass.
Last year, at a dinner in Silicon Valley for computer industry luminaries, President Obama (to his credit) asked Steve Jobs of Apple why so many employment opportunities in his company are found in foreign countries.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was reported to have been unambiguous: “Those jobs aren’t coming back.” Apple executives have long maintained that foreign plants are just so efficient, their workers so diligent, that the company can’t afford to make their omnipresent iPhones here in America.
Excuse me if I scoff at that notion. I would maintain that if our citizens are offered good, even challenging jobs, they can compete with any workers in the world. If Apple thinks otherwise, it’s their greed that’s doing the talking. What Apple means to say is, “You can’t find workers like that in America for $1 an hour!”
Here are some facts: Apple employs over 40,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, while their contractors (who engineer and assemble their products) employ an astounding 700,000―almost none of them in the United States. The company reported profits of over $7 billion just for the third quarter of 2011; its stock sells for over $500 per share. Do the Occupy Wall Street placard holders know this, or care?
During the 1950s, when General Motors was at its height as a company, it provided good jobs for some 400,000 American workers. As late as the 1980s, General Electric employed over 200,000 in our country. Weren’t those companies’ products efficient back then? Did their CEO’s claim American Workers weren’t capable of building our cars and televisions sets?
I respectfully conclude with this thought: If you applaud the Occupy Wall Street movement, and thus deplore corporate avarice, but give Apple a free pass in their transgressions because you just love their products, you may well be an apologist for greed.